The Japanese city of Sapporo is reconsidering plans to host the 2026 Winter Olympics in favour of an improved bid for the 2030 Games, officials said on Monday.
Sapporo, which staged the Winter Olympics in 1972, appears to have decided that waiting an extra four years for bullet train and road projects to be completed would give it a better chance of winning hosting rights.
“Sapporo’s urban development is unlikely to be fully ready by 2026,” Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto told a joint news conference with Japanese Olympic chief Tsunekazu Takeda.
“By 2030 they will be ready to a degree, so we are currently discussing whether to go forward with our bid for the 2026 Games along with the possibility of looking instead at 2030.”
Akimoto insisted Sapporo had not yet decided to pull the plug on plans for 2026, but the northern city may also be conscious of the fact it would be Asia’s third successive Winter Olympics and fourth overall.
The 2018 Winter Olympics were held in Pyeongchang earlier this year, the 2020 Summer Games will be in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Members of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force are seen raising Olympic flags in Sapporo.
“We have heard (from Sapporo officials) that the city would have a better- prepared environment in 2030,” said Takeda.
“It is essential for an Olympic host city to have that development and ‘shinkansen’ (bullet train) links. It will be a powerful factor in an Olympic bid.”
Sapporo is one of seven cities that have expressed interest in 2026, and faces competition from Calgary, Stockholm, Graz in Austria, the Swiss city of Sion, Erzurum in Turkey and a joint Italian bid from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin.
The International Olympic Committee is expected to select the winner in September 2019.
Sapporo, located on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, could also face a strong challenge for 2030 if it opts to delay by four years, with former Olympic host cities Lillehammer (1994) and Salt Lake City (2002) suggesting they were prepared to bid.